Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How To Reasonably Respond To Bad Criticism

Jem Finer performs the Philip Corner piece at the London Contemporary Music Festival, 2013

There is bad faith, there is trying to get in a bit of fun at the detriment of solid argumentation, there is sloppy writing and there is bad criticism. We're guilty of all these sins at FBC! but I always figured out it was OK because we're a personal blog and not the official arts mouthpiece of a national or international media.

Normally I don't try to get involved in too much back-and-forth concerning our little scandals in the art world, but this morning I came across an excellent piece of writing responding to a Guardian critic dismissive of one performance at a London festival (that piece is linked in the blog post itself).
The London Contemporary Music Festival just ended its very first edition last weekend.
It's in Peckham... and I have no idea where it is in London proper, but their program was mouthwatering even for someone like me who has a very amateurish interest in contemporary music. Glenn Branca, Tony Conrad, Helmut Lachenmann... You name it. I became aware of it thanks to both Tony Conrad and Rhys Chatham posting about it on their Facebook page, and I'm so grateful they did.

My understanding is that the festival developed over three weekends, that all performances were free but you had to book tickets and that it was hosted in a concrete parking structure. If I hadn't been so broke I sure would have traveled to London to attend at least one weekend, and if next year I can afford it you bet I will try. In a nutshell, the idea is interesting, the program really serious and it's free, what's not to love?
Well apparently some guy at the Guardian got his knickers in a twist, as they say across the pond, because a fifty-year old piece of performance was created during which a piano is dismembered. Apparently the guy from the Guardian isn't aware that such a small thing as Fluxus happened a long while ago, and what of these pesky rock musicians who used to light their guitars on fire or smash them on stage?  He also seemed to be unaware that there is a vast stockpile of unwanted pianos all over the UK, even though the BBC devoted a whole article about the problem last year.

Jimi Hendrix lights his guitar on fire, Monterey Pop Festival, 1967

In a way it is fun  and reassuring that a historical piece can still be shocking, but as "Ben H/Cooky LaMoo" underlined in his blog post, the Guardian critic didn't bother reviewing any other piece of music performed during the festival. It's a bit akin to, say, far-right extremists singling out a  lone 1913 painting they deemed of dubious quality at a museum to demand it is deprived from its public funding, if you ask me. I'm not going to continue arguing  about it because that piece I linked to is really excellent, so I should only recommend you read it. I only wish I could write as well as Ben H.

Speaking of writing... I am currently trying to meet two September deadlines and a page tally that should end up being around a hundred, so there won't be many more FBC! posts until mid-September, unless I'm finished sooner. If I post things it will likely be YouTube clips, and then when I am done the long-awaited post about Tosh Berman's book Sparks-Tastic will be on.

In the meantime, read god books, listen to good music, go see some good art and enjoy the rest of the Summer!